The Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, the advocacy arm of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, serves as our region’s chief advocate at all levels of government to secure public sector investment and legislative and regulatory improvements to make our region’s business climate more competitive. The enduring contribution of the chamber is its ability to bring people and organizations together around issues critical to regional business and, through a unified voice, effectively convey the needs and priorities of the region to local, state and federal decision makers.
The Chamber enjoys a long Pittsburgh history and was instrumental in such landmark initiatives as the effort to ‘clean up’ our skies during the 1970s and 1980s and in advocating for increased federal funding for regional transportation needs – including critical bridge, waterway, highway and transit improvements.
Founded in 1876 by many of the region’s ‘captains of industry’ – among them Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick and Richard K. Mellon – the Chamber once held a more traditional (membership-based) focus. However, even then the Chamber worked to enhance the business climate and quality of life in the Pittsburgh region through a strong leadership agenda to encourage economic growth – foreshadowing its future role as the primary advocacy arm of southwestern Pennsylvania.
The Chamber has a legacy of spearheading public-private cooperative programs for improved public services. In the 1970s, its Loaned Executive Programs helped to save local government – and local taxpayers – millions of dollars by identifying opportunities to streamline operations. Efforts of this nature continue today and are essential to the long-term fiscal health and accountability of local government.
More recently, the Chamber was a supporter of the Home Rule Charter Initiative in Allegheny County and the subsequent row office reform. In 1997, the Chamber made a strategic decision to focus even more on its advocacy functions – communicating a consistent agenda for action to benefit the business community – and therefore focus less on building a membership base, a function served by numerous other area chambers of commerce. Regardless of this shift, the Chamber still offers a variety of benefits and services to its members.
In 2000, the Chamber entered into a “joint venture” with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA) that brought the four organizations together under a common CEO. The relationship was formalized into a strategic affiliation in 2003, with a single membership, staff and strategic plan supporting and guiding the activities of all four affiliates under the leadership of the Allegheny Conference board of directors. The structure plays to the strengths of each organization – the advocacy efforts of the Chamber, the research and analysis expertise of the Economy League, and the marketing intelligence capabilities of the PRA. These strengths, guided by private sector leadership, enable an efficient model for regional improvement.